In times past, a lot of people glazed over the possibility of having a sleep disorder and assumed that their sleep disturbances were just minor inconveniences. However, in this day and age, people are beginning to grasp the seriousness of conditions like sleep apnea and they often wonder: “How do I know if I have sleep apnea ?”
If you’re wondering if there might be something more to your tossing and turning at night, you’ll want to pay attention to this article. While it is not a substitute for a professional diagnosis, it will fill you in on some of the most commonly observed signs associated with the condition. The majority of the risk factors mentioned here can be noticed on your own even if you don’t share your bed with a partner.
If left untreated, it may lead to increased risk of stroke, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and even diabetes. Catching sleep apnea early on is vital when it comes to mitigating the risk of complications. The sooner that you get treatment, the less likely you are to become a statistic.
If you notice some or all of these symptoms in your day to day life, it may be in your best interest to seek medical treatment. It is also important to note that there are more signs not covered here. For an official diagnosis, you will need to participate in a sleep study. Sleep studies not only diagnose sleep apnea, but they are also crucial for gauging the severity of the condition. Severity is assessed by monitoring the number of disruptions to airflow per hour and plays a vital role in developing a treatment plan. Also, today, a lot of children can suffer from sleep apnea as well.
Below you will find some of the telltale signs of sleep apnea followed by information about the standard treatment options.
Chronic Day Time Sleepiness
People who get undisturbed, healthy sleep at night typically wake up feeling refreshed. Lethargy and chronic daytime sleepiness are often associated with disorders. In the case of sleep apnea, it is one of the most commonly observed indicators. Even if it does not coincide with other symptoms, you’ll still want to get tested. This is especially important if you’re living alone and not sharing sleeping space with someone else that would otherwise notice the apparent signs.
There are a few reasons why this symptom occurs. In individuals with obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles in the back of the throat become overly relaxed upon falling asleep. When this happens, the airway becomes blocked, which prevents adequate oxygen from flowing to the brain. These episodes often last upwards of 10 seconds and occur steadily throughout the night.
Each time that the airway becomes blocked, the brain wakes up the individual. It does this so that tension in the throat is restored, which restores oxygen flow. These consistent disturbances throughout the sleep cycle can keep individuals from entering the sleep stages that are responsible for deep rest.
While the brain is technically waking you up during these episodes, you might not be conscious of it happening. This is why those with sleep apnea are often so confused about why they are so tired despite going to bed at a reasonable hour.
In individuals with central sleep apnea, the reason for the daytime tiredness is the same. However, the reason why the flow of oxygen stops is different. Rather than the muscles simply becoming too relaxed, it is a matter of the brain failing to send the correct signals to keep the airways open. Central sleep apnea is far less common than OBA and it requires specialized care.
Not all people who snore have sleep apnea. However, snoring is the first thing that comes to mind when people think of the condition, and for a good reason. Nearly 90% of people with OSA experience loud snoring. If you’ve had people comment on your snoring in the past, or if you routinely wake yourself up throughout the night, you might be at risk.
There are some things that can help to differentiate between snoring caused by OSA and “normal” snoring. The first thing to take note of is volume. Are you a light snorer or do you produce loud, deep snorts throughout the night? If it’s the later the chances of it being caused by OSA are much greater.
The second thing that you want to pay attention to is how frequently the snoring happens. Most people snore on occasion, when congested or when sleeping in certain positions. However, if it happens every night it could be more serious. This is particularly true if your snores are laced with choking sounds and gasps for air.
If you live alone, you might be snoring without realizing it, especially if you’re a heavy sleeper. There are some things that you can take note of to determine if that might be the case. One thing that you can pay attention to is how your throat is feeling in the morning. It is normal to be thirsty when you first get up and to experience minor throat irritation. However, if you find that you’re throat is feeling hoarse and scratchy on a consistent basis, severe snoring caused by OSA might be the cause.
Severe OSA causes agitation and soreness in the throat beyond what typical snoring causes. This happens because of the way that the airways are agitated when airflow is disrupted.
Other Signs of Sleep Apnea to Watch For
- unexplained irritability
- Waking up frequently to go to the bathroom
- Morning Headaches
- Decreased Sex Drive
- Gasping or choking sensations upon waking
How Sleep Apnea Treatment Can Help
If you resonate with the symptoms mentioned in this article, you should seek professional help. Getting an official diagnosis is the first step toward getting treatment. As mentioned earlier, the sooner you begin treatment, the better.
The treatment for sleep apnea is simple. You’ve probably heard of CPAP machines, but they aren’t as intimidating as they sound. They’re small devices that go over the nose and mouth. If your sleep apnea is mild, you may only need what is called an EPAP, which only requires a nose piece.
CPAP and EPAP machines have come a long way in a short amount of time. The devices on today’s market are lightweight and easy to work with. They feature cushioning and feature materials that feel good on the skin. Most people report adjusting to sleeping with their device within a couple of days.
CPAP machines work by delivering a continuous flow of air during the sleep cycle. Most people begin to notice the benefits immediately. The devices use distilled water to ensure that the air has a comfortable moisture level. So, you won’t have to worry about waking up with a dry mouth. They can detect disruptions in airflow while a person sleeps, and when this happens, they increase airway pressure to keep the airway open.
If your sleep apnea is mild enough for an EPAP, your device will apply positive airway pressure only when exhaling.
Receiving steady, uninterrupted airflow while you’re sleeping will reduce the likelihood of your sleep cycle becoming disrupted. It will also make sure that you’re getting adequate oxygen at night. This does wonder for the symptoms of sleep apnea. Once you begin using your device, you should return to feeling energized throughout the day. You’re also likely to notice other benefits like improved mood and memory.